Wednesday, February 4, 2015


Like many of you, I am trying to learn the whole story about podcasts.  I've been listening to them for years but I've never considered them "mass media" like broadcasting. Other than repeats of my favorite programs and segments, most of the podcasts I've heard sound like leftovers from cable-access TV.  But that is changing, because no matter the platform, content is king.

Enter Roman Mars: The Man Who's Building a Podcast Empire.  In a fascinating interview in the latest edition of Wired, Mars lays out his vision:

Roman Mars thinks public radio needs a tune-up. His popular design podcast, 99% Invisible, was a start, but Mars’ plan for total airwave domination relies on Radiotopia, the podcast collective he founded last year with public media company PRX. Radiotopia provides funding, support, and promotion for a stable of indie podcasts (shows like Love + Radio, Strangers, and Criminal) that specialize in narrative journalism. Mars wants to broaden the radio landscape, making shows that aren’t bound by NPR’s conventions—Radiotopia shows tend to feature hosts speaking softly, so close to the mic that it’s like they’re in your head. 

In other words, stories that get inside a listener's head and demand a return visit for more. This is about "hot magnets" that go beyond the restrictions of broadcasting. The goal is a deep connection to each listener:

Photo Credit; Damien Maloney

Mars: Public radio once cornered the market on the closeness. Listening to NPR became the definition of who you were. And podcasting is a hundredfold more intense than that. podcast listener is worth 10,000 radio listeners. The personal connection is major.  

True enough, but podcasting and broadcasting are two different businesses. The metrics are hard to compare.

The assertion that "one podcast listeners is worth 10,000 public radio listeners" is taking it all from the podcaster's point of view.  From a broadcaster's perspective it is better to have 10,000 listeners than one because if you lose one listener you have 9,999 left.  Lose a podcast listener and you might be out of business.  Audience retention is the key.

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